Boaters rescued after autopilot strands them in cave

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SAN DIEGO — Lifeguards rescued two boaters who ended up stranded in a cave early Friday morning after a fishing trip to Coronado.

Lifeguard Lt. Rich Stropky explained the boat, a 26-foot catamaran, had been in autopilot when the people on board fell asleep. When they awoke, the boat was right up against the cliffs in the Point Loma area. The boaters tried to turn the vessel around but a surge pushed them into a cave below Sunset Cliffs.

The men did not have solid radio reception but were able to get out a mayday call with some coordinates. With the boat hidden in a cave and the coordinates not being perfectly accurate, it took rescuers about an hour to locate the men, Stropky said.

A lifeguard boat got rescuers as close as it could to the mouth of the cave, and then divers hopped in the water and swam the rest of the way to the catamaran, which was stuck up out of the water. The lifeguards swam both men out of the cave with flotation devices.

A Coast Guard helicopter helped light the way for the rescue. Stropky said the job was complicated by a fairly strong surge in the area, but that no one was hurt in the effort. Both men were given medical checks but were in good health.

Stropky said the boat could potentially be removed from the cave at first light.

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